Friday, September 26, 2008


A good portion of the book of Numbers contains an account of Israelite wanderings before they entered the Promised Land. There's a reason why they were referred to as the "children" of Israel. They groaned, they griped, they kvetched (linguistic anachronism, I know. Stay with me.) They wandered a long time, but apparently, didn't learn much from their prolonged stay in the desert.

This summer we attended a family reunion in Lake Tahoe. On our last full day there, we hauled all the kiddies to a place called Wright's Lake. It's in an area called-- get this-- Desolation Wilderness. Not making this up. It's no Sinai Peninsula, but this place is ARID for a forested area and somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 feet in altitude. The summer heat and the thin air suck you dry so fast you don't know what hit you.

Several generations of my family have schlepped to Wright's Lake. I hadn't been there in 17 years but I was ready to go back and bring a fourth generation to enjoy it. My boys are small so I was prepared for some complaining. What I wasn't prepared for was how I would feel by going back.

The explorer John Muir referred to the Sierra Nevada mountain range as the "Range of Light." There is some inexplicable draw here that I did not fully understand when I was small. My father brought us to the Wright's Lake area repeatedly. I did not know how lucky I was, or how unusual it was for a girl from Los Angeles to be traipsing through these woods each summer. But now I understand. Call it hiker's karma or what you like, it all came tumbling back to me as I hiked hand-in-hand with my oldest son.

All sixteen of us were headed to a little-known place off the map that we called Enchanted pools. We were pretty sure we knew the way and didn't need a guide... that was our mistake. We stayed on the trail rather than veered off like we should have. Once we realized we had gone too far, we backtracked and ran into several park rangers. We looked at their maps and saw where our destination should have been. Our energies and water supply were rapidly disappearing, so we decided to call it a day and head back.

Walking back to the car, I expected to hear some complaining about our failed trip. But miracle of miracles, nothing happened. We all chatted happily. My five-year-old led the way, as he did during the rest of the hike. Rather than tired or complaining, he was invigorated by the day's events. I was surprised to find that I, too, was not disappointed. Why? We didn't get to our destination. We made the effort with nothing to show for it. Shouldn't that be upsetting? Apparently not.

Then I realized that it was the hike itself that was so important. Had we arrived at the pools, we would have stopped. Instead, we kept moving, marveling at the ever-changing scenery, and listening to sounds of our children making memories of the journey, rather than the destination.

All this, without a bit of complaining.

No comments: